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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 01/28/2013

The problem with technology in schools

Instant access to information has revolutionized how students learn today. From an instructional perspective, education technology sounded great, but with its growing prevalence in America’s public schools, its true impact is gradually being revealed. And the news is not all good.

A Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 90 percent of teachers believe that digital technologies were creating an
(Norm Shafer - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
easily distracted generation with short attention spans. About 60 percent said it hindered students’ ability to write and communicate face to face, and almost half said it hurt critical thinking and their ability to do homework. Also, 76 percent of teachers believed students are being conditioned by the internet to find quick answers, leading to a loss of concentration.

Between class periods, the halls of American high schools resemble a traffic jam on the interstate as they glare hypnotically into a screen. Some scroll their fingers up, down and across a tablet, others text faster than professional typists, while still others bop their heads to music.

Yet, this behavior does not always stop at the classroom door — and that has also become another major issue.

Teachers are now forced to perform the “put that away, unplug that, please log off” dance every class period, resulting in a waste of valuable instructional time.

African American students, though lagging behind academically, tend to have more of these gizmos than others, according to the Pew data. For our kids, any further distraction in school should be particularly unwelcomed. Saturated by entertainment media, they are experiencing stimulation that teachers cannot keep pace with.

To remedy this, all technology should be left in lockers and not allowed in the classroom. Failure to comply should be met with confiscation of the device, which would only be returned to the parent. If parents believe that it is acceptable for their child to violate established school policies, then the schools are left with no other option other than to seize them.  

For many, technology has become a catalyst for distraction and off task behavior with students, tweeting, or prowling through YouTube when they’re supposed to be listening to the teacher or doing classwork promotes a lack of focus.

Quick access to information can lead to a lack of critical thinking about sources and quality of information, as well as an inability to “mine for data.” Many students will likely click one or two pages into a Web site, but no further. This means that in addition to creating concentration problems, students who multitask too much develop a tendency toward skimming rather than in-depth reading and analysis. This, more than anything, will hurt grades and the development of the intellect.

Commonly referred to by educators as the “Wikipedia problem” technology can create an expectation of easy access to information and instantaneous answers. Today students’ idea of learning about a topic is to believe what they read in online. Alas, Wikipedia has become the modern day concept of research and is considered acceptable by too many educators.

Teachers reported that students are distracted constantly. Their memory is highly disorganized. Recent assignments suggest a worsening at analytic reasoning. Further, they wonder if we are creating people who are unable to think well and clearly.

Schools across the country are struggling to deal with the growing prevalence of the technology. Most have created policies that are intended to guide the use of gadgets in the classroom; enforcement is proving to be difficult.

Other teachers, however, say that technology is not just a problem but can be a solution.

They agreed that technology could be a useful educational tool. Roughly 75 percent of the teachers surveyed said that the Internet and search engines had a “mostly positive” impact on student research skills. And they said such tools had made students more self-sufficient researchers.

Many education reformers tend to look to technology to solve some of the challenges that face our public schools. From online education to interactive games, the emphasis on exploring technological forms of pedagogy to raise student scores has generated a number of interesting projects and studies.

While everyone agrees that there’s no stopping the development of multiple educational and technological formats, including social media and that there would be a number of negatives should that happens, schools will be challenged to endure that students can use new online educational forms and social media and still continue to develop the intellectual skills they need to succeed in and interact with the world.

The issues engendered by the reality of education technology demand that schools leap ahead in developing a “Digital Citizenship” curriculum to appropriately guide students beginning from kindergarten on technology’ usage.

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By  |  11:10 AM ET, 01/28/2013

 
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